Fifty Shades of Grey: Film ReviewCast: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson
Director: Sam Taylor- Johnson
The phrase goes that there's no pleasure without pain.
For those uninitiated in the twisted love story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey and unaware of the push and pull of the "romance" and story of the dominant and submissive, the story goes a little like this:
Steele (a mousy, lip-biting Dakota Johnson) finds her life upended when she meets the young billionaire head of a telecommunications corporation Christian Grey (The Fall star Jamie Dornan). There's an attraction between the pair and Grey pursues Steele in manner that many would consider creepy and a cause for a restraining order - but when Steele decides to give him a chance (to which many sensible minded people would scream "Why?") she finds his world is about the BDSM and control rather than love and relationships.
Determined to change him, Steele ploughs on and opens up her virgin world to the pursuit of other pleasures, despite her conflicted views...
It's tempting to simply dismiss the Fifty Shades of Grey series as nothing more than a male fantasy written by a woman (a submissive woman willing to do everything the man wants) and I suspect there's probably a good reason why the book series have been so perennially popular with the imagination and escapism proving a large part of their appeal.
To be fair, the cinematography is stunning; pristine business vistas, Grey's world is all staunch regimented colours and some wonderful lighting and shots are peppered throughout; even Dakota Johnson brings a rounded humanity to the relatively one-note virginal Steele that's surprising - and there are even dashes of humour throughout that prove unexpected and welcome.
But in between the push and pull of the romantic tussle (Steele's continual argument is that she doesn't want to do this relationship, then she does and then she she doesn't), the terrible dialogue is endlessly distracting and unintentionally hilarious.
Lines like "If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week" or "I'm not going to touch you until I have your written consent" as well as scenes of butt-naked Jamie Dornan aka Grey playing a piano as he's troubled elicit more titters on the screen than the dreaming that potentially they'd garner on a small page.
Equally, there is so much talking about contracts, submission and what it entails, the back and forth of deliberations, that the apparently inherent deviant sexiness of the book is completely lost in the execution on the screen - and is certainly not the MO of those likely to whip themselves up into an outraged frenzy.
None more so than the actual softcore overly scored sex scenes, which are so technically brought to life, it's like watching an unerotic manual enacted by robots whose slightest interaction and touch elicits OTT deep breathing and ecstatic moans.
Films like 9 1/2 Weeks, Unfaithful, Nymphomaniac and Basic Instinct may have shocked and been derided over the years but at least they had a degree of sensuality and danger that struck a chord (even if people wouldn't admit it).
Also, a relative lack of chemistry between the leads doesn't help matters - sure, there are scenes of Steele biting her lip and Grey looking lustfully on and plenty of those breathless moments when they're in each other's arms, but the crippling lack of any kind of sizzling intensity makes it nigh on unwatchable. Dornan doesn't help with committed wooden delivery in the film which starts off with rom-com trappings and then moves into long winded melodrama that belie its fan-fiction origins.
I'm sure all of this won't matter, though - the ticket sales are already through the roof and the fans are already crying that the critics don't understand (a claim levelled at so many of us during the Twilight Saga releases), with the phenomenon likely to be massive at the box office and relatively bullet-proof.
Fifty Shades of Grey may be an attempt at a twisted love story, but it's so engrossed in its own seriousness and execution that it ends up being tied up in knots of its own as it works slavishly to satiate its trembling audience, rather than attract new recruits to the cause.
Terribly boring, terrifically unsexy and with a cliffhanger ending that's laughable, this series is likely to be style over substance; a damp squib of an R18 film that's afraid to shows its wares or get its sizzle on.
In fact, it's in dire need of some cinematic viagra for the following two movies.